A bill making its way through the General Assembly would prevent drivers’ private information from being accessed by law enforcement agencies, including key identifying information belonging to people who lack legal immigration status.
HB 2163, proposed by Delegate Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax) would protect drivers’ private information, and if the DMV releases information because of a court order or a warrant was issued, that person would have to be notified.
The bill, which was developed over the past year and included conversations with law enforcement and immigrant advocacy groups, has passed the House of Delegates and is currently being considered by the senate.
The bill has particular relevance for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, the legal director for the Legal Aid Justice Center, said ICE’s enforcement is often “hyper-aggressive” and utilizes this type of information to investigate leads without judicial input.
“They have a tip about a certain person. They're looking for a certain person. They don't know where to find them. They log onto the DMV database. Boom, they've got his address. That's one of the main things that we're trying to prevent here.”
The bill would allow the DMV to disclose information when “the requesting agency presents a lawful judicial order, judicial subpoena, or judicial warrant,” and only the information contained in such orders.
“All this will prevent them from doing is sort of essentially on a whim sitting down in front of their computer terminal and typing up and getting access to whatever they want without having to go before a judge first.”
Until this year Virginia residents without legal immigration status could not apply for driver privilege cards. At least 2,400 driver privilege cards have been issued, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
The bill also has provisions that place restrictions on how requesting agencies might be sharing data. That might have other consequences as well, says Sandoval-Moshenberg. “If that has the sort of beneficial side effect of every one of us getting fewer pieces of junk mail about our car’s extended warranty about to expire, so much the better, right?”